Monday, February 08, 2016

B.C. Geocaching Road Trip - Part 1

As the year wound down myself and brother Al and brother Ken did our yearly geocaching road trip to the Interior of the BC province. We usually head up through Merritt, Kamloops, loop over to Vernon, and then decide which route to take home depending on how many days we are away and where we end up on the second to last day of the trip. This year we more or less stuck to tradition and did the route described above. One of the good thing about looping through Vernon is then we get to visit one of our other brothers Wayne and his wife Inga.

The first day we cached our way from Maple Ridge up through the Coquihalla Highway famed for the TV show "Highway Through Hell" so named as the winter pass received huge amounts of snow making this main provincial artery one of the hardest and most dangerous roads to travel. We were travelling in early Autumn so the weather was good but high volumes, high speed, and wild life combine to make this highway dangerous any time of the year

We got off and on at various exits along the highway as we picked up caches in tucked away spots with sign markers that highlighted this main route of today and yesteryear. From cattle drives before the railway to the coming of the mountain railway itself this route through the mountains was full of history.

One of the geocaches had us scrambling up the side of a loose shale hillside to get to the top of a bluff where the geocache was hidden. While the two brothers risked their life slipping and sliding up the hillside (can't wait till they come down) I stayed below and recorded it all on video in case something terrible happened and I should need to post the video to YouTube.I immediately realized I had the wrong attitude about them hurting themselves up I was down on level ground, there they were up in a dangerous spot and I thought to myself.....those buggers have both the keys to the truck!

A few more caches along the way and soon enough we were in the big town of Merritt. We checked in at the motel to confirm our room for the night, then headed off to cache around the city for the rest of the day. We cached for a few more hours into the dark and then headed off to the local Tim Hortons for a late lunch/dinner combined before we meandered back to the hotel for the night.

DAY 1 - 12 caches and a couple of hundred miles under our belts...

.Day 2 had us up early and finishing off the local caches in Merritt before we headed north-east out of town. The first cache was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel - it was close enough that MrTJ was still eating his breakfast banana as Bowser98 and myself found the cache just a ways in from the road. Banana finished and the rest of the local caches found, we headed out of town along Highway 5A into the the north end of the Nicola Valley and alongside Nicola Lake.

We approached the southern end of Nicola Lake where it the lake ends in a marshy drainage area that is a home for a myriad of water fowl. Many species of birds overwinter here - in the past I have seen huge rafts of various types of birds from American Coots to Common Mergansers and everything in between. As it was still only September and Winter was not any where near yet, summer songbirds like the Red Winged Blackbird could be heard singing their daily songs.

We picked up caches along the east side of Nicola Lake as we slowly sauntered north towards our goal of Kamloops for the night. Along the way we were reminded that this is Cowboy country and not that long ago in the scheme of things wagon trains and stagecoaches were the transportation choices rather than cars with rubber wheels.

The Quilchena Hotel built in 1908 in the small settlement of Quilchena replaced an earlier hotel that was not up to the standards of Joseph Guichon when he purchased the property. The Guichon name is synonymous with the "history" of the region and you will find the Guichon name in many historical and present day contexts.

One of the geocaches we found,located in the hills above the Quilchena Hotel and ranch land, was part of the Gold Rush series of caches hosted by the a number of towns in this area of the province. They were designed to highlight the history of the various regions and at the same time act as a centre piece to attract tourism to the towns whose local economies have suffered as the logging and resource industries have died down. This has been a very successful campaign over the years and I know of many geocachers whom have spent their holidays in the area. Including us!  :)

We eventually left the Nicola Lake area as we continued north along Hwy 5A coming across numerous lakes situated in a north-south axis where Ice Age glaciers had carved grooves in the land. Stump Lake is one of the bigger lakes in the area and like most of the lakes had a major ranch operation on it's banks. The Stump Lake Cattle Ranh was established in 1883 and today boasts of 80,00 acres of land which ranges from rolling grasslands to evergreen and deciduous forests to lakes, wetland marshes, and high rocky bluffs.

As we were getting close to Kamloops we decided to take off onto one of the numerous ranch roads in the area to take the slow way into the big city and at the same time let us slow down and see more of the ranch life. Campbell Creek Road has a series of 25 or so caches along it's length and would drop us out on the east side of Kamloops.

So, what we would you expect to see along a road that cuts through ranch land? Why, cows of course...and we seen a lot of them along this road. The road itself was dirt but well traveled so that even cars were common along here. Not that we seen a lot of traffic...we did see a lot of cows....I think I mentioned that....there were a lot of cows.....

One of my favourite things to explore is backroads and this road fit right into what I love to explore.But like all goods things, soon enough we were at the end of Campbell Creek Road and back into civilization.
We hunted up a few more caches in the outskirts of Kamloops and then headed into town to claim our hotel room,grab a bite to eat, and then finish the night off with a half dozen caches done in the dark.

DAY Two over - another hundred or so miles and 63 more geocaches found on the day.

End of Part 1 - watch for Part 2 to come the video below covering Day One and Day Two....